An Ethelbert Update – Part I

Because I don’t know a) what’s good for me, and b) when to quit, I decided to research all of those pesky Ethelbert Neals to see how – or if – they all connected when added into my tree. As it happened, all of them tied back into ‘my’ Neal lines and did so quite nicely … for the most part.

Until, that is, a transatlantic voyage cropped up.

Dated to 19 June 1855, a 25 year old Ethelbert Neal arrived in the Port of New York aboard the ship Hero, which had departed from Bristol (and not Glasgow as it appears in the Ancestry transcription!) approximately six weeks previously.

Ethelbert’s arrival in New York aboard the ship Hero (original image via Ancestry, shoddy editing by me!)

But how does he fit in? At first glance it appears that he doesn’t. If he was truthful about his age, then we’d be looking for a baptism around 1830. Only there isn’t one. Well, not one that fits: there is a baptism in 1832, but this Ethelbert marries in 1852 and is with his wife in every census until her death in 1898 and then his in 1905.

Then there is the baptism in 1827, in Sherston, of an Ethelbert to parents Ethelbert and Mary – only they already had a son called Ethelbert baptised in 1816. My first thought was that the first Ethelbert died young. But no: Ethelbert b. c. 1816 marries Jane Niblett in 1843 in Sherston with his father’s name listed as Ethelbert. They also appear in subsequent census returns together with their children (yes, there’s another Ethelbert as well as a Daniel Nibblett Neal who would later also have a son called Ethelbert).

The 1841 census is a little more helpful. There is an Ethelbert born approximately 1827 living with what looks like a family group, all the children of a widowed William Palmer. He is probably the same Ethelbert who in the 1851 census is lodging with his brother Joseph Palmer Neal and his wife, and is also the one who then marries Emma Wilcox on 15 July 1853 as he lists his father as William Neal. Which is great. They have a son called – you guessed it – Ethelbert in August 1855 who sadly died the next day (they also previously had a daughter called Emma Matilda in 1853).

But there is no baptism for an Ethelbert to a William and his wife (alternatively called Drusilla and Rachel in the parish registers). Only the ‘alternate’ Ethelbert baptism mentioned above. But then Ethelbert disappears from UK records at this point. Emma is found in the 1861 census, listed as a married servant helping to look after three orphaned children (Holborows, as it happens), but this Ethelbert is not.

Of course, it’s highly likely that this is because he is one and the same Ethelbert who skipped off to America when his wife was six months pregnant. We’ll stay with Emma for a moment … In February 1865 a son, Harry Southern Neal, was born and baptised in Sherston to Emma – no father’s name listed. By the 1871 census she is listed as the wife of Estcourt Neal, although there are no records of a marriage taking place. Sadly, Emma died in 1876. Her death certificate lists her as “the wife of Albert Neal” (presumably a mishearing of ‘Ethelbert’), but an announcement in the North Wilts Herald seems to clinch the deal:

North Wilts Herald – Monday 21 February 1876

Poor Emma. I hope that she and Estcourt were happy together after she had been abandoned by Ethelbert. And what was he doing in America?

What amused me most (not the abandoning of his family part) was the fact that in 1860 he was living in Emmett Charter Township in Michigan – which is the absolute neighbour of Battle Creek where my paternal grandfather’s family lived (and where I still have relatives!). He is listed as a Miller, living with his wife Elizabeth, a Catherine, Mary and Margaret Murphy and finally William Neal, aged one month. I can’t find an online marriage certificate for Ethelbert and Elizabeth, so I don’t know if Murphy was perhaps her maiden name (i.e. the girls are her younger sisters) or if she had previously been married (i.e the girls were her daughters). Although there is a teasing trail of Catherine marring in Marshall, Michigan which matches up with a death certificate giving her parents as Nicholas Murphy and Elizabeth Wood.

In 1870 ‘Ethbert’ is still in Emmett Charter Township (ie NOT Emmett Township which is also in Michigan, but a different county altogether 160 miles away) with Elizabeth, Margaret and a 5 year old William. Clearly, this can’t be the previous William as he should have been 10, and not only 5. Sadly, the first William was interred at Oakridge Cemetery in Marshall in October 1861 aged 1 year and 4 months. His younger brother and namesake arrived in late 1865.

Elizabeth died in 1890, with Ethelbert following on 11 January 1900. His death certificate implies that he was born on 6 April 1829, which matches only broadly with what else we know!

However, there is an extensive probate packet attached to Ethelbert which contains some interesting nuggets. It is from here that Elizabeth’s death is found – July 1890. There is also detailed accounting of his estate, both debits and credits, and it clarifies that the informant on the death certificate was Adam Sutherland who Ethelbert had employed as some kind of non-medical nurse to sit with him. (It also transpires that Ethelbert transferred “property in the village of Ceresco $175” to Adam in December 1899, as reported in The Marshall Statesman.)

There was also a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing with a Lizzie Frizzell, who was guardian of a William S. Neal. Eventually it’s spelled out that Lizzie – real name Laura Ann Mason – had married William J. Neal (son of Ethelbert) on 29 September 1890 in Colorado Springs. Eight months later on 30 May 1891 William died in Sopris, Colorado (now underneath Trinidad Lake). Their son, William Sanford Neal was then born on 10 November 1891 at Lizzie’s parents’ house in La Plato, Missouri. She remarried to Robert Frizzell. After more than a year, William was paid his $52.20 inheritance …

Although William married, he died in Montana in 1951 aged 60 with no children.

Part II of the update will be coming after I receive some certificates that I have on order …

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